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Business

China's online shoppers can track food from farm to market

Startup plans similar safety service for exports to Japan

Edward Zhong

SHANGHAI -- Online consumers in China can follow the origin and path taken by produce and processed foods to a supermarket before making a purchase, with a new service designed to ease the public's food-safety concerns.

Seres Internet Technology, a startup formed last year, teamed with growers and distributors such as farmers, food factories and supermarkets to build a system covering production, distribution and retailing.

Enhancing transparency in food distribution will reduce consumer distrust, which benefits suppliers as well, said Edward Zhong, the company's top executive.

A 360-degree camera set up at a partner supermarket lets online customers "walk around" different areas -- just as when using Google's Street View service -- and shop for items such as fresh produce. Customers can view information such as where items were grown, the names of the producers and the types of pesticides used -- as well as live shots of farm grounds and data from soil composition analyses. The service even displays soil safety certificates from the renowned Xiamen University.

The shopping service has launched in parts of Guangdong and Jiangsu provinces, with a debut in Shanghai expected soon. Some supermarkets apparently have reported a 10% jump in sales.

Seres Internet Technology plans to open an office in Japan soon to start a similar service for foods exported to that country.

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